Salt Lake City Public Library

Salt Lake City, Utah, 2003 / United States / Cultural Civic

The “urban room”, a public space open through the waking hours, attracts every facet of Salt Lake City’s community. They come for books, for information, for education, and entertainment and more. The urban room is a social hub, and the reading garden atop the library’s roof, overlooking the Wabash Mountain, is Salt Lake City’s beloved garden of contemplation. The outdoor piazza and lawns are the settings for book and art fairs and concerts. Urban life expands outdoors in summer and withdraws into the light-drenched urban room in winter.

The Salt Lake City Main Public Library occupies a city block across from City Hall. The urban design plan reimagines the role of the library in a downtown setting, drawing the library’s program into the city and the city’s program into the library.

The building consists of a five story, triangular-shaped structure housing the stacks and readers’ facilities, an adjacent rectangular administration wing, and a glass-enclosed urban room, all contained by a crescent-shaped wall. The wall descends toward the piazza, providing a sweeping external staircase that connects the piazza to a rooftop garden overlooking the surrounding Wasatch Mountains. The urban room opens into the piazza, which is lined within the wall with shops, restaurants, meeting rooms, and an auditorium.

Within the crescent, reading galleries occupy the four levels above the retail areas and connect by bridges to the main library block. On the lowest level, the children’s library spills outdoors into an amphitheater and a children’s garden, around which cluster story rooms designed as part of the art program. A south-facing, five-story double-glazed “lens” opens the entire library toward the mountain view while providing shade or trapping the sun’s heat, as appropriate to each season.

The outdoor piazza is anchored by an open-air amphitheater, set with the backdrop of the main lens of the library. The library, plazas, and gardens are places to celebrate the city.

The Library is an extroverted building, reaching across the site to pull in and engage the public and downtown.

The outdoor piazza and lawns are the settings for book and art fairs and concerts. Urban life expands outdoors in summer and withdraws into the light-drenched urban room in the winter.

The Urban Room is an interior main street between the library and the crescent wall. It is a vibrant urban living room that celebrates all seasons, and frames magnificent views of the city. It is flooded with natural light and activity.

The exterior is comprised of a six-story curving, walkable wall with an open public plaza at the ground level and a rooftop garden. Activities as diverse as rooftop yoga, bee-keeping and art installations animate the exterior as much as the interior.

The reading garden atop the library’s roof overlooking the Wasatch Mountain is an outdoor room. The garden is a quiet place of contemplation, as well as a place to see a 360 degree view of the city.

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